From the Springfield Republican:

$1.7 million grant focuses on homeless

Tuesday, September 29, 2009, By PETER GOONAN, [email protected]

SPRINGFIELD – The city on Monday announced that two local agencies will receive funds from a $1.7 million federal stimulus grant that will concentrate on homeless prevention efforts and the rapid re-housing of families.

HAP, Inc. is slated to receive $1,055,783 from the grant, and Catholic Charities is receiving $568,499, officials announced during a press conference at City Hall. The remaining funds will be used by the city for a computerized homeless reporting information system.

Mayor Domenic J. Sarno, in announcing how the funds will be dispersed, said there will be added focus on helping homeless families and families at danger of homelessness while continuing to help individuals. The level of family homelessness has increased significantly, with more than 250 Springfield families currently in shelters and motel rooms, Sarno said.

The assistance will range from assessment and counseling to rapid re-housing through aid such as rental subsidies, utility bill help and security deposits, said Geraldine McCafferty, acting housing director.

“These funds are much needed in this economic environment,” McCafferty said. “In addition, they give us the opportunity to create a new system to help families respond to housing emergencies.”

In related news, the city is providing Project Homeless Connect on Tuesday, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the MassMutual Center, which allows homeless families and individuals the opportunity to access multiple service providers in one place, on one day.

This is the third consecutive year that volunteers and service providers are taking part in the program that provides help to the homeless and near-homeless, ranging from housing and employment assistance to eye examinations and even haircuts.

At Monday’s press conference, HAP, Inc. Executive Director Peter A. Gagliardi said the number of homeless families is a “huge concern,” and the focus is on helping the homeless help themselves. The aim is to prevent homelessness and to help quickly if people become homeless, he said.

HAP, Inc., has been providing housing assistance in Hampden and Hampshire counties since 1973.

Vickie L. Riddle, executive director of Catholic Charities, said the organization will work in partnership with Friends of the Homeless, which operates shelters on Worthington Street. Catholic Charities will have its workers helping “at the door” of the shelters, providing case management, supportive services, housing search assistance, and other aid, she said.

Catholic Charities has various programs and services that assist the poor and needy.

Sarno praised both agencies for having “excellent track records” in assisting the poor and homeless.

The funds will be used to fund new approaches to family homelessness, Sarno said.

In addition to re-housing efforts, the funds will “also support families in developing long-term strategies to keep stable housing,” Sarno said.

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